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Understanding the ‘India Out’ Campaign in Maldives

  • Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy

    Since Ibrahim Solih’s election as president of Maldives in 2018, India and Maldives have been working to revive their previously strained relations. The relationship faces an enduring threat, however, in the form of the ‘India Out’ campaign spearheaded by opposition parties. Although limited to certain sections of the Maldivian polity, the campaign has fuelled anti-India public sentiments, in turn becoming consequential to India-Maldives relations. This paper seeks to bridge the literature gap on the origins and nature of the campaign. It assesses the implications for India and the regional order.


Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy, “Understanding the ‘India Out’ Campaign in Maldives,” ORF Occasional Paper No. 371, October 2022, Observer Research Foundation.


India and Maldives have shared diplomatic, defence, economic, and cultural relations for the past six decades. Located in a crucial geographical position in the Indian Ocean, Maldives is vital to India’s strategy for the Indian Ocean and its neighbourhood. For its part, Maldives reaps benefits from India’s economic assistance and net security provision. India has assisted Maldives in various ways since its independence in 1965, such as its pursuit of socio-economic development and modernisation, as well as maritime security. Their engagements flourished beginning in the late 1980s, when India launched ‘Operation Cactus’ to abort a coup in Maldives against Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s autocratic regime.[1]

The cordial friendship continued throughout Maldives’ first democratic government, elected in 2008.  However, with Abdulla Yameen coming to power in 2013, India-Maldives relations spiralled downward with his crackdown on democracy, proximity towards China, and anti-India rhetoric used to muster nationalist sentiments.  In 2018 a new president, Ibrahim Solih, was elected, who immediately worked to improve the relationship by initiating an ‘India First’ policy. The policy prioritised India for economic and defence partnerships, and showed greater sensitivity to Indian concerns emanating from Chinese investments and activities in Maldives.

Not everyone agrees with this policy, however. In October 2020, the opposition coalition—i.e., the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the People’s National Congress (PNC)— officially launched a challenge to the bilateral relationship through what it called the ‘India Out’ campaign. The campaign seeks to exploit anti-India sentiments, already prevalent parallel to the democratic transition and amidst allegations of India’s expansionist ambitions. ‘India Out’ aims to fuel more hatred by creating scepticism for India’s investments in Maldives, the defence partnerships between the two, and India’s net-security provisions. Both of the political parties behind the campaign are led by Yameen.

This paper traces the origins of ‘India Out’, its nature, and drivers, and its implications.

‘India Out’: A Brief History

Gayoom’s nomination as president of Maldives in 1978 marked the beginning of an autocratic regime that lasted till 2008. The period was characterised by a lack of space for democratic dissent. The emergence of democratic constitutional reforms in 2005, and Gayoom’s electoral defeat in 2008 opened spaces for discussion and dissent.[2] It is in these same spaces where emerged the occasional promotion of anti-India sentiments and the politicisation of aid in Maldives, according to the opposition’s calculations of their opportunities. Various such instances recurred even before the opposition’s India Out campaign was launched officially in October 2020.

In 2009, India gifted Maldives with a helicopter[3] and the two sides signed a defence cooperation agreement for joint surveillance and patrols in the Indian Ocean. They also discussed establishing a network of 26 radars. This attracted criticism from the opposition, who said Maldives was compromising its sovereignty and making space for Indian influence and presence in the island state.[4]

A year later, in 2010, Indian corporation GMR undertook a project of upgrading and operating the Malé international airport.[5] When the firm ended up in a legal dispute for imposing a development fee on Maldivian nationals, it got the unofficial support of President Nasheed. The opposition used the controversy to build nationalist sentiments against India and accused Nasheed of corruption and misusing democratic institutions. This issue, along with economic and religious grievances, contributed to the December 2011 protests and the subsequent resignation of Nasheed in February 2012.[6]

Afraid of being arrested after resigning from his position, Nasheed took shelter in the Indian High Commission in 2013,[7] triggering even more anti-India rhetoric from the opposition parties and the protesting public. His successor, Mohammed Waheed, used the GMR fiasco and the High Commission standoff to further nationalist sentiments and make himself relevant in the 2013 presidential elections.

Following Yameen’s election in 2013, Maldives increased its interactions with China and in 2014 welcomed President Xi Jinping for a visit he made to court support for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project.[8] As Indian and international criticism of Yameen’s crackdown on domestic dissent and opposition increased,[9] the Maldivian president further moved closer to China. Despite officially maintaining an ‘India First’ policy, Yameen leased islands and infrastructure projects to China and the two signed a Free Trade Agreement.[10]  There were also negotiations to establish a Joint Ocean Observation Centre, which would give China more relevance in the region.

In return, China offered Maldives mega-infrastructure projects and loans, most of them under opaque terms and conditions. By the end of Yameen’s tenure in 2018, it was estimated that Maldives had borrowed around US$ 1.5 billion from China—of which only US$ 600 million were the government’s borrowings, and the remaining US$ 900 million were sovereign guarantees.[11] Finding China to be a sound option for economic and political survival, Yameen went on an anti-India spree to further nationalist sentiments. In 2018, his government asked India to withdraw its helicopters and operatives from the country, accusing them of espionage and violating sovereignty.[a] India’s hesitancy to withdraw its helicopters within the given time escalated the anti-India rhetoric.[12] Yet, it would only be after Yameen’s electoral defeat in 2018 that the contemporary form of India Out would emerge. 

 As Ibrahim Solih took over the presidency in 2018, he sought to undo the political and economic damage caused to India-Maldives relations by his predecessor. Since then, a number of proposals from China, including projects under the BRI, as well as the FTA have been shelved.[13] There was a renewed focus on the ‘India First’ policy where the two countries undertook projects to improve the island state’s economic, social, and defence capabilities (See Table 1: The timeline begins in November 2018, after Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Ibrahim Solih was elected as president.)

The cooperation covers the sectors of roads and land reclamation; agriculture; sanitation and health; airport development; education; transportation; housing and community development; defence; and maritime security.[14]  This has helped the ruling alliance in promoting development in the country while saving it from Yameen’s irrational borrowings that would have led to a fall into China’s ‘debt-trap’.[15] It is in this regard that the Sri Lankan crisis is often portrayed as a classic example of what could have happened if Yameen were in power.[16]

Table 1. Key Initiatives by the Solih Government with India’s Assistance

 Source: Author’s own, using various open sources.

The development projects are targets of the India Out campaign. The opposition leads protests and fuels sections of traditional and social media to promote the narrative that the government is selling the country’s sovereignty to India. They accuse India of interfering in Maldives’ sovereign affairs, deploying the military, facilitating Yameen’s arrest, spreading COVID-19 in the country, and restricting the people’s freedoms of expression and assembly.[17] Although the opposition maintains that their only objective is to ask India to withdraw its soldiers from the territory, the campaign has often taken a xenophobic turn, as will be discussed later in this paper. The ultimate objective of this campaign is to muster nationalist sentiments and win the 2023 elections.

The opposition has made their allegations based on three confidential agreements between India and Maldives, discussed in turn in the following paragraphs.

Hydrographic Survey: The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding for hydrographic surveying in June 2019,[18] with the first activities beginning in January 2021. The survey aimed at identifying the seabed and mapping the physical features of the islands, reefs, sandbanks, and lagoons of the Maldives. The government claimed that this agreement would strengthen the island nation’s capability to map out coastal waters and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), and properly utilise their resources.[19] However, the opposition and some sections of media claimed that the survey would allow India to have in-depth knowledge of Maldivian waters, ports and harbours, and thereby access seabed and critical navigational information[20]  and challenge the country’s security. An allegedly leaked version of the confidential agreement, published by the media channel, Dhiyares, reinforced this narrative.[21]

Dornier aircraft: The Dornier aircraft was requested in 2016, under Yameen’s government, but finalised only in 2020. Under the agreement, India would deploy 25 unarmed personnel to operate the Dornier aircraft, and train seven Maldivian pilots, observers and engineers to operate the same.[22],[23] The 25 unarmed personnel will be commanded by the Maldivian defence forces. While India will cover only the logistics cost of the aircraft and the Indian military personnel, Maldives will look after the operations of the Dornier aircraft.[24] The Maldivian government asserted that this agreement will help better monitor the Maldives’ EEZ, improve its maritime security, and limit illegal trafficking. [25]  The opposition argued that the government would be allowing Indian troops to be stationed in the Maldives with the aircraft, and thereby compromise its sovereignty. An allegedly leaked version of the agreement, again from the Dhiyares news channel, reinforced these conspiracy theories of India’s expansionist ambitions.[26]

UTF agreement:  The Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF) agreement was proposed in 2016 under Yameen, but was signed only in 2021. According to the agreement, India will help develop and maintain a coastguard harbour and dockyard for Maldives and provide professional, technical and logistical support for a period of 15 years. The government stressed that the agreement would help improve maritime security by letting the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) dock, maintain, and repair its coast guard vessels.[27] The opposition claimed that the government has allowed India to establish a military base in the Maldives.[28] Dhiyares and opposition leaders allegedly obtained a leaked version of the document and fuelled the fears. The leaked document alleged that Indian military personnel will be stationed for a period of 30-60 years and use arms and communication facilities, and Indian vessels and aircraft would have unrestricted free access to the UTF.[29], [30]

Much of these allegations and protests continued despite the government offering subsequent clarifications and the campaign being outlawed in April 2022.[31] However, it is only in the following months, after the violent incident during Yoga Day,[b] that the campaign slowed down. In September 2022, Yameen ordered a pause to the physical protests and rallies, citing the government’s crackdown measures.[32] The media houses too, have toned down their anti-India rhetoric to a certain extent. The campaign, however, is afloat on social media, and the opposition continues to issue press releases and statements bearing the stamp of ‘India Out’. 

The Key Drivers of ‘India Out’

1. Political Parties

The Opposition Coalition

The opposition coalition’s use of debt and sovereignty narratives to criticise the government began in mid-December 2018 when India decided to offer US$ 1.4 billion in assistance to the Maldives.[33] The criticism was focused on the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government. By March 2019, opposition leaders started the “Indian Soldiers leave” campaign – opposing the Solih government’s decision to reverse Yameen’s policy of asking India to withdraw its helicopters and operatives.[34] In June 2019, the opposition expressed their reservations about the Hydrography agreement.

Claims of India’s increased military presence and deployment then started to gain ground, and the first protests against India began in August 2020.[35]  The next month, protestors started directly calling out India for violating the Maldives’ sovereignty, but the opposition denied its involvement in these protests.[36] Finally, the opposition launched its first official ‘India Out’ protest on 18 October 2020, on the Maldivian National Day.  The protests were described as a reaction to the Maldives “becoming a slave to India” and increasing “Indian military presence in Maldivian Soil.” .[37]

There were two reasons: One, it appeared to be an attempt to put pressure on the Indian government to facilitate Yameen’s release. (Yameen had been arrested on corruption charges in November 2019.) The key leaders of the opposition party had met the Indian High Commissioner only days before these protests, requesting India to intervene in this regard.[38] The second reason is that India provided the Maldives with a Dornier aircraft in late September that year, [39] giving the opposition more currency to exploit anti-India sentiments and substantiate their claims of Indian military deployment.

Requests for Yameen’s release were also raised with the Indian Foreign Secretary in November 2020.[40] By January 2021, protests sprung up in symbolic spaces like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the residence of the Indian High Commissioner.[41] In February 2021, the opposition leaders met the Indian Foreign minister.[42]  This was  likely for three reasons: India diversifying its outreach in the Maldives as the anti-India rhetoric intensified; seeking broader consent for the UTF agreement; and the opposition trying to oust their leader from jail.[43] The opposition’s rhetoric grew more vocal and sceptical of India with the finalisation of the UTF agreement.

By the time Yameen was released on 30 November 2021, the protests have moved to other cities beyond Malé.[44]  Yameen wasted no time spicing up his anti-India rhetoric,[45] travelling to distant islands to speak about the India Out campaign. The aim was to make ground for the 2023 presidential elections.[46]

The Ruling Coalition

Much of the criticisms and allegations levelled at India are directed against the Maldivian government as well, and the ruling coalition is taking the India Out campaign seriously. To be sure, some MDP leaders have dismissed the claims as a well-orchestrated political campaign to whip up hatred against Maldives’ closest ally.[47] Ali Azim - a Member of the Parliament has alleged that the campaign is China-funded.[48] Others have said it was being run by criminals, gangs, drug dealers, and extremists. One thing that most critics agree on is that the campaign is mere political opportunism on Yameen’s part.

As the opposition’s claims started to gain more support and legitimacy, MDP provided more clarification on the three classified agreements.[49] In subsequent months, the National Security Services committee reviewed all three agreements and declared that they posed no threat to Maldivian sovereignty.[50] The government also clarified that nearly 75 unarmed Indian military personnel (mostly observers, technicians, and pilots) are present in the Maldives—25 assigned for the Dornier aircraft, and 25 each for two helicopters gifted by India.[51] Some of the agreements were also disclosed to the Parliament and the High Court.[52] The same committee report was passed in Parliament with a majority.[53]

Yet, the India Out campaign continued despite these clarifications. While the Nasheed and Solih camps may differ in their approached to countering the campaign, they both view it as a threat to the MDP, to Maldives, and to the larger India-Maldives relations. The movement was banned in April 2022.

Even MDP’s coalition partners—the Adhaalath Party (AP) and Jumhoore Party (JP)—condemned the India Out movement and Yameen for inciting hatred for India and hampering the bilateral relationship. Both parties call themselves ‘nationalists’ and say they would not support nor tolerate any activities that compromised Maldives’ independence.[54]  Although they reap electoral benefits by showcasing Indian development initiatives, their statements are shaped by opportunism and their political calculations. For instance, the JP has not completely dismissed the Indian military's presence. Indeed, before the official statement criticising the campaign, the JP’s leader—Qasim Ibrahim, reiterated that he is not personally aware of any Indian military presence in Maldives.[55] This could be seen as JP’s attempt to increase its flexibility in coalition formation and electorates, as Qasim Ibrahim looks to contest the upcoming 2023 Maldives presidential elections.[56]

Other political parties

Similar sentiments are shared by non-coalition parties. Leaders from the Maldives National Party (MNP) have criticised Yameen and the India Out movement for harming bilateral relations with India.[57] At the same time, they object to criminalising the campaign, and have instead requested the government for transparency on the India projects, hinting how India’s loans, assistance and projects pose a threat to the Maldives—without naming India.[58]

For its part, Ahmed Siyam’s Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) has been rather silent on the India Out campaign. The party was closely knit with Yameen’s alliance in 2013. Yameen had helped him secure a US$125-million loan from China with a sovereign state guarantee.[59] After discontinuing the coalition in 2019, Siyam sought MDP’s assistance for a bailout on Chinese loans. This has reinforced his silence on the highly partisan campaign; such neutrality would become more crucial as Siyam contests the next presidential elections.[60]

2. Social Media

Before the street protests broke out, the narratives and mobilisation for India Out first took shape on social media. A social media analysis by this author of the hashtag #Indiaout—used by this anti-India campaign in Maldives—found that the hashtag is not an original one. It was used back in 2017 to either portray India as a coloniser in Kashmir or taunt it when it loses cricket matches.[61]

The first tweet on Maldives’ India Out campaign appeared on 7 December 2018, from the handle @usaidzman, who identify themselves as a supporter of Yameen. The tweet criticised Solih for causing the enslavement of Maldives to India and praised Yameen’s government for bringing economic progress to the island nation with the help of China.[62] From then, one account—@arcasifh, whose cover photo was that of a cropped ISIS flag—kept the campaign alive on social media through the occasional tweets between December 2018 and July 2019. The account tweeted its first #Indiaout tweet on 22 December 2018, and at the time of writing this paper was still tweeting similar content.[63]

In June 2019, the hydrography agreement was signed. The India Out social media campaign commenced one month later but paused shortly thereafter. From 11 and 12 July, multiple profiles began tweeting with the #Indiaout hashtag, among them @TedinMaldives, @MBahaaru, @AdmNaseer, and @FazylAli.[64] Ahmed Azaan (@axanner)—co-founder of Dhiyares and a social media campaigner of India Out–tweeted his first India Out tweet on 12 July 2019; he paused for some months, before resurfacing with India Out tweets in October 2020.[65]

Most of the tweets criticised the MDP; accused India of discriminating against Maldivians by, for instance, replacing Maldivian labour; having a military presence in the country and rigging elections. Others criticised India’s policies vis-à-vis Kashmir and blamed Indians in the Maldives for increasing the crime rate in Maldives.  By June 2020, the number of tweets with the India Out hashtag had decreased. [66]

The campaign resumed with a massive push in July 2020, with a large number of users using the hashtag ‘India Out’. Most of these tweets appeared only on July 25 and 26, and on August 30 and 31.[67] In September the tweets were more dispersed across the days.[68] By October and November, the campaign was in full swing, with tweets and hashtags of India Out coming out nearly every day.[69]

This increased tweeting in July could perhaps be seen as the opposition’s attempt to create more momentum for the ‘India Out’ protests that began around August and officially launched in October. Another explanation could perhaps be that the opposition found more currency to intensify the campaign, as the public grew concerned over India’s Dornier aircraft in the Maldives.

Once the campaign was in full swing, members and loyalists of the opposition party seized the opportunity to disseminate hatred for India and the government. This author’s analysis of the #Indiaout hashtag on Twitter using Hashtagify [c] supports this argument (see Table 2).[d]  These profiles were shortlisted based on the following variables: influence (tweet engagements, likes, retweets, user mentioned in tweets with hashtag #Indiaout); specialisation (tweets with hashtag #Indiaout, their originality, and retweets); and total followers.[70]

Table 2. Top Profiles Affiliated with the ‘India Out’ Campaign

Source: Hastagify; Author’s compilation
Note: PNC – People’s National Congress; PPM – Progressive Party of Maldives

This author also conducted a seven-day Twitter analysis, still using Hashtagify.[71] Between 17 June to 24 June 2022, a total of 5,800 tweets appeared with the #Indiaout hashtag of which 1,300 were original and 4,500 were retweets. The tweets recorded 7.7 million impressions,[e] nearly double the Maldivian population. In the same period, an average of 824 tweets came out every day from 389 users. Most of these are affiliated with the opposition parties (see Tables 3, 4, and 5).

These numbers indicate that the India Out campaign on Twitter is organised around a few users (affiliated with the opposition) with relatively fewer original tweets that are retweeted.

Table 3.   Seven-day (17 to 24 June 2022) Twitter analysis of Top Profiles Based on Influence

Source: Hashtagify, author’s compilation   
Note: PNC – People’s National Congress; PPM – Progressive Party of Maldives[/caption]

Table 4. Seven-day (17 to 24 June 2022) Twitter analysis of Top Profiles Based on Specialisation 

Source: Hashtagify, author’s compilation   
Note: PNC – People’s National Congress; PPM – Progressive Party of Maldives

Table 5. Seven-day of Top Profiles Based on Followers (17 to 24 June 2022)

Source: Hashtagify, author’s compilation   
Note: PNC – People’s National Congress; PPM – Progressive Party of Maldives

The dominance of Maldives’ opposition members on the social media landscape could be linked to opportunism, especially in the run-up to the 2023 elections.[72] Unsurprisingly, even most of the co-related hashtags of India Out (see Table 6) were related to the opposition’s objective of promoting nationalist sentiments, cornering the current government, displaying Yameen as a messiah against India, and mustering support for the 2023 polls.

Table 6: Co-related Hashtags of #IndiaOut

Source: Hashtagify, Authors’ own

3. Media

Local news outlets closely affiliated with the opposition—such as Dhiyares, its English edition The Maldives Journal, and the Maldives News Network (MNN), have played a vital role in the campaign.

Dhiyares was licensed in July 2019, and its English outlet Maldives Journal, in late September 2020.[73] This author’s analysis of the coverage of Maldives Journal found that negative coverage of India began only in December 2020. Both Dhiyares and the Maldives Journal are owned by Shifzan Ahmed, Ahmed Azaan Marzooq, Noorul Huda Hassan, and Ahmed Ibrahim,[74] and were formed only after Yameen and PPM were ousted from power. Ahmed Azaan—a star campaigner of the India Out movement—is a close affiliate of Yameen and his family. He was sponsored for his education in ADA University, Azerbaijan from 2015-2019 by Yameen, and the two have maintained good relations.[75], [76] Shifzan Ahmed, meanwhile, was educated in Egypt and is mentored by Mohamed Shaheem—a member of PPM and a close affiliate of Yameen.[77]

The MNN, on the other hand, was formed in 2020 by Mohamed Ikram Abdul Latheef. In May 2021, he was joined by other directors and shareholders - Hamdhan Shakeel, Ibrahim Khaleel, and Mohamed Nooraddeen.[78] It was only after this expansion (June 2021) that MNN started promoting anti-India content.[79] Two of MNN’s shareholders—Abdul Latheef and Khaleel—were part of Yameen’s proposed media governing board in 2015.[80]  Hamdhum Shakeel, on the other hand, is the brother of Mohamed Shakeel.  The latter is an active cadre of the PPM, and was its former secretary and also a state minister in Yameen’s government.[81]

Both these news agencies have widely promoted the India Out campaign by criticising India and the MDP.  They played a crucial role in raising speculations for confidential agreements, investments, security arrangements, and economic agreements.[82] To substantiate their claims of Indian “occupation” of Maldives, they often spread disinformation and distorted facts about India’s integration of Sikkim, Operation Cactus in 1989, and the 2018 Indian chopper withdrawal debacle from the Maldives.[f], [83]

Dhiyares and the Maldives Journal were the only news agencies to have leaked all three confidential agreements. The leaks became the source of misinformation, allegations, and counter-arguments for the opposition, media, and social media users.

Indeed, both media outlets often glorify Yameen as the only leader who could resist the so-called Indian occupation.[84] The newspapers exclusively cover Yameen’s rallies and his anti-India rhetoric, and criticise the government for restricting and curbing the India Out protests, and misusing state institutions.[85]  The Maldives Journal refers to the India Out protests as a “grassroots moment”.[86]

Dhiyares, for instance, has asserted that MDP and Solih are employing a lot of Indians, while Yameen had prioritised Maldivians.[87] Indians were also linked to rising crimes in the Maldives.[88]Personal details of the Indian military personnel in the Maldives were leaked, and some Indian diplomats were accused of corruption, espionage, and paedophilia.[89] MNN, on the other hand, reports on “Hindu nationalism” to create more anti-India sentiments and create more legitimacy for the India Out movement.[90]

Otherwise, the coverage of India Out remains fairly balanced, or else critical, in other media outlets. The media outlet Public Service Media (PSM), for example,  has been carrying out a pro-government narrative against the India Out campaign.[91] Rajje, for its part—closely affiliated with the MDP—has been critical of the India Out campaign and of Yameen’s role, and promotes a pro-government narrative.[92] Other newspapers like the Times of Addu and the Edition too, have extensively covered the India Out campaign, but have remained fairly neutral in their coverage. The Sun Media Group owned by the MDA leader Ahmed Siyam has tried to cover the issue without obvious bias.[93] 

The Indirect China Factor

As Solih tried to reverse the damage caused by Yameen, various Chinese investments took a back seat. According to statements from the Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives, by mid-2021, China had only active project in the Maldives, while India had nearly 45.[94] It is in this regard that China is seen as a source of the India Out campaign. This perspective is furthered by Indian media reports as well as some MDP politicians.[95] The US’s increasing interest in the Maldives, and intensifying rivalry with India post-Galwan clashes, might have also compelled China to take part in the campaign. [96]

Chinese media outlets appear to be silent about India’s Maldivian policy, though China is using them for the India Out campaign. Initially, Global Times promoted some scepticism and anti-Solih content in 2018.[97],[98] In late November 2018, the media outlet also cited Nikkei Review to raise speculations about India’s hegemony and permanent deployment of military personnel in the country.[99] This critical content stopped in 2019. Indeed, the Global Times had hardly reported anything on the Maldives since Yameen was defeated. But there was some criticism of India’s South Asian policy; India’s Maldives policy was shown as opportunistic and geo-political.[100] It urged South Asian states to stay away from India’s anti-China coalition attempts, criticised the US’s increasing presence in the Maldives, and even portrayed itself as a benevolent power in the Maldives.[101],[102]

On the other hand, China Daily substantially covered and praised the positive developments and investments between China and Yameen’s government.[103] Even after Yameen’s defeat, Chinese investments in the country—especially the Sinamale bridge—were shown in an extensive positive light.[104] Although there was some criticism for the US’s Maldives policy,[105] there was nothing specific against India’s Maldives policy after Ibrahim Solih took over. Both Global Times and China Daily had no details or coverage of the UTF, India Out, India’s growing influence and investments.

A similar trend was also seen in the reporting of Xinhua and People’s Daily’.  They briefly covered the US’s interest in the Maldives, Yameen’s release, showed Chinese investments in a positive light and interviewed the Maldivian Foreign Minister – to highlight China’s assistance and significance to the island state.[106] China has not promoted any such mis/disinformation considering India’s increasing investments in the Maldives since 2019, while it has done the same with the US’s investments in Nepal, and India’s activities in Bhutan and Nepal.[107],[108]

Despite the absence of a paper trail, it can be argued that China is covertly supporting the India Out movement.[109] The MNN, the Communist Party of China (CPC), and the Chinese media outlets enjoy a good relationship with each other. It is largely believed that China covertly funds the MNN outlet.[110] MNN continues to frequently promote Chinese propaganda from Xinhua, Global Times, CGTN, and other Chinese-affiliated media through its platform.[111] Similarly, MNN’s Shakeel has also publicly defended China from global criticism about the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19.[112]

Finally, China’s elite capture of the PPM and its affiliates has been significant. China offered loans and deals to the PPM elites—most of them opaque—along with nurturing corruption and personal incentives. The Chinese government had also engaged in public diplomacy efforts and promoted professional training for Maldivian civil servants.[113] This resulted in several pro-Chinese policies under Yameen’s regime, and much of this network continues to stay intact even today.  In this context, Beijing would want a pro-China regime in the Maldives, while the opposition would desire China to play a larger role.


The previous sections of this paper have outlined the nature, origin, and sources of the India Out campaign. This section discusses the key observations made throughout the paper and their implications:

Domestic Politics

Democratic Maldives has a long history of the opposition stirring up anti-India sentiments for political gain. The India Out campaign is no exception. By politicising Indian investments and projects, the Progressive Alliance have tried to whip up nationalist sentiments against the government, and muster support for the 2023 elections.

Although the India Out protests and rhetoric have mellowed down in recent weeks, political parties and leaders will likely moderate their attitude and rhetoric towards the ruling government – or even India, depending on their political opportunities and calculations. For instance, partners of the ruling coalition – AP and JP—have a history of either forming or abandoning coalitions based on their political benefits and opportunities. Similar compulsions might guide the positions of the same parties like MDA and MNP.[g]

The India Out campaign has also shown that the division between domestic and international politics in Maldives has blurred significantly. With China’s stronghold on PPM and India’s close relations with the MDP, political parties will have to make difficult partisan choices. This is crucial, especially at a time when the competition between India and China has intensified in the region.


The India Out campaign has also shown two ways of China’s involvement against India and the US in the region – elite capture and covert sustained campaigns. In the case of Maldives, China has continued to sustain its elite capture tactics with the PPM. The political and financial links and incentives created by China have continued to bear advantages for China and its geopolitical ambitions. This phenomenon will continue to prevail as the US is increasing its presence in Maldives and China’s competition with India is intensifying.

Similarly, covert support and funding are also an issue. Similar nature of covertly funded Chinese protests was speculated in Sri Lanka. Those protests succeeded in getting an India- Japan-Sri Lanka agreement cancelled—one that sought to develop the Eastern Container Terminal.[114] On both fronts, it is yet to see how India or its partners will deal with this nature of Chinese influence and tactics within the Maldives and the rest of the region.

Anti-India sentiments

The prevalence and exploitation of anti-India sentiments in Maldives is not a new phenomenon. What India Out attempted to do was create and sustain a consistent hate campaign directed against India and its people. The campaign has been effective in coordinating between different sources—political parties, social media, media, and China—and intensifying the anti-India sentiments more than ever.

The campaign appears to be carefully calculated, and it was given a go after initial hesitancies. The physical protests began after two trial launches, and once the opposition found more currency to launch the campaign. The social media campaign too, paused multiple times before commencing. The Global Times’ offensives against Solih came to an abrupt pause after 2018, and the media houses’ ownership also extended gradually along with the success of anti-India rhetoric.

Overall, the campaign appeared to be well-organised and centred on pre-determined calculations of actions and interests to put India and the MDP in a difficult position. It has been successful in creating an ecosystem of stakeholders with enough skills to reach out to the population and a favourable electorate to decimate misinformation and hatred. This will provide them with the potential to complicate and exacerbate the anti-India sentiments when deemed necessary and politically favourable in the future. In this context, pausing or making India Out campaign illegal will hardly be significant. The ecosystem continues to prevail and will continue to have the potential to exploit and exacerbate these sentiments in the future.

The Future

The India Out campaign is also supported by criminals, gang leaders, drug traffickers, and religious hardliners. [115], [116] The opposition, like any other major political party in the Maldives, has sustained a relationship with these extremist and criminal entities.[117] However, from what currently appears, the anti-India sentiments are likely to be merged and used with the religious rhetoric.[118]

As Maldives heads to elections next year, the hardliners anticipate more political power and autonomy under Yameen, and Yameen expects the hardliners to mobilise crowds and muster legitimacy. The comments against the Prophet by some BJP members[h] have given them further opportunities to propagate Islamic nationalism, and defame the current government by terming it ‘infidel’ and promoting ‘un-Islamic’ activities on India’s behalf.  The PPM activist Ismail had even helped the extremists with the logistics for the Yoga Day disruption in June 2022. The opposition and the hardliners have even begun to place mutual demands of releasing religious scholars and opposition workers arrested for inciting violence on Yoga Day.

Information or misinformation about India and Indian communal tensions will likely be used to mobilise crowds at the cost of Indian influence. As the democratic history of Maldives might suggest, this could lead to more political instability and opportunities for other parties. The India Out ecosystem will only likely exacerbate this political instability.


The prevalence and exploitation of anti-India sentiments is not a new phenomenon in the Maldives, often shaped and determined by political opportunism. This is true of ‘India Out’. As Ibrahim Solih took over as the third democratically elected president of the country, the opposition instigated a sustained campaign to criticise the government and create hatred for India by politicising its investments and projects in the island state. The mobilisation for the campaign began around late 2018 in the social media space.  After having received a slight push in July 2019, the social media campaign only became active in mid-2020. The physical protests then began in mid-2020.

Much of this campaign has been sustained by four sources – political parties (i.e., opposition), social media, traditional media, and China. The first three factors are largely shaped by the Progressive Alliance. The fourth factor is, however, more covert and subtle in nature. However, there had been some significant cooperation and unified command. There was hesitancy and calculation before launching the India Out campaign.  Once the campaign started receiving attention, the opposition launched a full-fledged campaign.

Despite the campaign being declared illegal in April 2022, the sustained ecosystem of India Out will continue to exaggerate and exacerbate simmering anti-India sentiments. Its future also depends on how the political landscape evolves in the coming months, and whether or not the interests of the extremists and the opposition align. Finally, the campaign has also left enduring suspicion about India in the Maldives. India not only has to counter the covert nature of Chinese competition but must also think about how to deal with the anti-India sentiments and the opposition in case of a change of guard in 2023.

Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy is a Junior Fellow with ORF's Strategic Studies Programme.


[a] In 2016, India had gifted its second helicopter to the Maldives. Just like the previous helicopter, this one would be used for medical and HADR missions, and operated by Indian technicians. See: High Commission of India, Maldives, “Gifting of Second Advanced Light Helicopter To Maldives (April 27, 2016),” High Commission of India, Maldives, https://hci.gov.in/male/?5038?003

[b] A mob in the Maldives attacked Yoga Day celebrations organised by the Indian High Commission, saying they were “Unislamic”. Several Indian and foreign diplomats were present in the event. Candidates of the opposition parties are accused of supporting the violent incident. See: “Yoga Day Violence: PPM’s Mohamed Ismail Released”, Sun Maldives, August 06, 2022, https://en.sun.mv/76619

[c] Hastagify is a website that identifies top social media hashtags. It helps us track certain hashtags, its top users and influencers.

[d] Methodology used: The author used Hastagify website to retrieve the data. Profiles for the search of #Indiaout are openly available on the website. The Weekly data, however, was retrieved by using a seven-day trial for a personal subscription. The data was retrieved by searching for the #Indiaout. Only tweets in Englsih were assessed and analysed through this software. The author verified the personal details of all the relevant Twitter profiles either through their social media handles, or through members of the PPM.

[e] Twitter Impression refers to the total number of times a Tweet has been seen.

[f] Integration of Sikkim – In 1975, Sikkim – a protectorate state officially became a part of the Indian Union; Operation Cactus – an operation launched by the Indian army in 1989 to pre-empt a coup from replacing Gayoom’s regime; 2018 Chopper withdrawal debacle – In 2018, Yameen asked India to withdraw its gifted helicopters and personnel from the Maldives. India’s hesitancy to do the same mustered some scepticism of India’s intentions.

[g]  The MNP will be competing in the elections, for the first time, in 2023.

[h] In two different incidents, two BJP office-bearers made derogatory comments against Islam and the Prophet. These incidents created a diplomatic backlash against India from several countries – including several Maldivian political parties.

[1] Ravinatha Aryasinha, “Maldives, Sri Lanka and the “India Factor”,” HIMAL South Asian, March 01, 1997, https://www.himalmag.com/maldives-sri-lanka-and-the/

[2] Anand Kumar, Multi-party Democracy in the Maldives and the Emerging Security Environment in the Indian Ocean Region (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2016)

[3]  Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, “India and Maldives Defence Cooperation,” Manohar Parrikar Institute For Defence Studies and Analysis, August 22, 2019, https://idsa.in/resources/documents/India-MaldivesDefCoop.20.8.09

[4]  K.V. Prasad, “No Agreement signed during Antony & rsquos visit to Maldives,” The Hindu, August 25, 2009, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/No-agreement-signed-during-Antonyrsquos-visit-to-Maldives/article16876715.ece

[5] Kumar, Multi-party Democracy in the Maldives and the Emerging Security Environment in the Indian Ocean Region

[6] Kumar, Multi-party Democracy in the Maldives and the Emerging Security Environment in the Indian Ocean Region

[7] Kumar, Multi-party Democracy in the Maldives and the Emerging Security Environment in the Indian Ocean Region

[8] Kumar, Multi-party Democracy in the Maldives and the Emerging Security Environment in the Indian Ocean Region

[9] Shubhajit Roy, “After Maldives Statement, India tries to save face,” The Indian Express, October 14, 2015, https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/after-maldives-statement-india-tries-to-save-face/

[10]  Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy, “A blurring Dichotomy: Can the new bill prevent the Maldives’ diplomatic disruptions?” Observer Research Foundation, February 15, 2022, https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/a-blurring-dichotomy/

[11] Deep Pal, “China’s Influence in South Asia: Vulnerabilities and Resilience in Four Countries,” Policy Paper, October 2021, Carnegie Endowment https://carnegieendowment.org/2021/10/13/china-s-influence-in-south-asia-vulnerabilities-and-resilience-in-four-countries-pub-85552

[12]  “Maldives’ Yameen wants India to Withdraw military helicopters, personnel,” The Week, August 11, 2018, https://www.theweek.in/news/world/2018/08/11/maldives--yameen-wants-india-to-withdraw-military-helicopters--p.html

[13] Ankit Panda, “Chinese Envoy in Maldives Push back on ‘Debt Trap,’ free trade agreement concerns,” The Diplomat, December 17, 2019, https://thediplomat.com/2019/12/chinese-envoy-in-maldives-pushes-back-on-debt-trap-free-trade-agreement-concerns/

[14] Indian Diplomacy (@IndianDiplomacy), “India-Maldives | A Multi-dimensional relationship,” Tweet, August 01, 2022, https://twitter.com/IndianDiplomacy/status/1554046157248073728

[15]  Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy, Ed., “India-China Competition: Perspectives from the Neighbourhood,” ORF Special Report No. 197, August 2022, Observer Research Foundation, https://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/ORF_Special_Report_197_India-China-Neighbours.pdf

[16]  Refer: Soumya Bhowmick, “Understanding the Economic Issues in Sri Lanka’s Current Debacle,” ORF Occasional Paper No 357, June 2022, Observer Research Foundation.

[17] See: Ali Faaiq, “India Wants Yameen Out of Political Spotlight: Adhurey,” The Times of Addu, October 16, 2020, https://timesofaddu.com/2020/10/16/india-wants-yameen-out-of-the-political-spotlight-adhurey/;  Naizak Mohamed, “Adhurey: Indian Soldiers were Involved In Impeding Mass Rally,” Sun Maldives, March 25, 2022, https://en.sun.mv/73667;  Isra Mohamed Naeem, “Maldives Is Becoming an Indian Quarantine Facility: Adhurey,” Times of Addu, April 25, 2021, https://timesofaddu.com/2021/04/25/maldives-is-becoming-an-indian-quarantine-facility-adhurey/

[18] Shahudha Mohamed, “Maldives Kicks off hydrographic survey with India,” Edition, January 31, 2021,  https://edition.mv/search/21819

[19] Mohamed Junay, “PPM raises security concerns over hydrography agreement,” Maldives Independent, June 10, 2019, https://maldivesindependent.com/politics/ppm-raises-security-concerns-over-hydrography-agreement-145844

[20] Junay, “PPM raises security concerns over hydrography agreement.”

[21] Nishdha Jinan,” Confidential MoU on Hydrographic Survey Leaked,” The Maldives Journal, July 4, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/26511

[22] “India Provides Dornier Aircraft to Maldives in Sync with growing strategic ties,” Economic Times, September 29, 2020 https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/india-provides-dornier-aircraft-to-maldives-in-sync-with-growing-strategic-ties/articleshow/78388846.cms.

[23]   “75 Indian military personnel stationed in Maldives to Operate aircraft,” Avas, November 14, 2021 https://avas.mv/en/109920

[24]  Aishath Shaany, “India provides Dornier aircraft to Maldives, as per request,” Raajje, September 29, 2020, https://raajje.mv/87404

[25]  Shaany, “India provides Dornier aircraft to Maldives, as per request.”

[26] Ameed Ubaid, ”TMJ Obtains Agreement Signed Between India-Maldives to Operate Indian Dornier in Maldives,” August 29, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/28755

[27] Devirupa Mitra, “Explained: How a Small Atoll Played a part in the roller-coaster ride in Indian-Maldivian Ties,” The Wire, February 23, 2021, https://thewire.in/external-affairs/uthuru-thilafalhu-utf-harbour-project-maldives-india-male-delhi

[28] Mitra, “Explained: How a Small Atoll Played a part in the roller-coaster ride in Indian-Maldivian Ties.”

[29] Ibrahim Adam, “The Leaked UTF agreement, an overview,” The Maldives Journal, March 16, 2021 https://themaldivesjournal.com/22665

[30]  Sarah Mohamed, “Govt. appeals ICO order to disclosure UTF agreement in High Court,” Times of Addu, March 4, 2022, https://timesofaddu.com/2022/03/04/govt-appeals-ico-order-to-disclose-utf-agreement-in-high-court/


[31] Areeba “President Solih Gazettes Decree to Stop India Out Campaign,” Times of Addu, April 21, 2022, https://timesofaddu.com/2022/04/21/president-solih-gazettes-decree-to-stop-india-out-campaign/

[32]  Ali Faaiq, “Opposition Pauses India Out Campaign,” Times of Addu, September 3, 2022 https://timesofaddu.com/2022/09/03/opposition-pauses-india-out-campaign/

[33] “Maldives President defends Indian Assistance” Maldives Independent, December 19, 2018,  https://maldivesindependent.com/politics/maldives-president-defends-indian-assistance-143228

[34] “Anti-India protest blocked,” Maldives Independent, March 17, 2019, https://maldivesindependent.com/politics/anti-india-protest-blocked-144301

[35]  Shahudha Mohamed, “Opposition Protests across Maldives, violate HPA guidelines,” The Edition, August 28 2020, https://edition.mv/news/18775

[36]  “Police Intervene to stop motorcycle rally, protesters continue on foot,” Sun Maldives, September 12, 2020,  https://en.sun.mv/62918

[37] Aishath Shaany, “Maldives Opposition Prepares for “India Out” protest,” Rajje Maldives, October 08, 2020, https://raajje.mv/88075  

[38] Shaany, “Maldives Opposition Prepares for “India Out” protest,”

[39] “India Provides Dornier aircraft to Maldives in sync with growing strategic ties,” Mint, September 29, 2020, https://www.livemint.com/news/india/india-provides-dornier-aircraft-to-maldives-in-sync-with-growing-strategic-ties-11601387626533.html

[40] Ali Faaiq, “Opposition share grievances with Indian Foreign Secretary,” Times of Addu, November 11, 2020 https://timesofaddu.com/2020/11/11/opposition-shares-grievances-with-indian-foreign-secretary/

[41] Ibrahim Adam “Indian Soliders Must Leave Maldives: Protestors”, The Maldives Journal, January 26, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/21062

[42] Zunana Zaif, “One Day “India Out!”, the next day “India, Help!”, Rajje Maldives, February 22, 2021, https://raajje.mv/95758

[43] Yameen Saeed, “Opposition meets with Indian Foreign Affairs Minister to share Dilemmas,” Times of Addu,  February 21, 2021 https://timesofaddu.com/2021/02/21/opposition-meets-with-indian-foreign-affairs-minister-to-share-dilemmas/

[44] Ibrahim Adam, “India Out Protest in Fuvahmulah City,” The Maldives Journal, November 21, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/31750

[45] Ibrahim Adam, “The Indian Military Must Leave the Maldives: Yameen,” The Maldives Journal, December 4, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/32152

[46]  Ibrahim Adam “Yameen to Travel to Islands To Gain Support for Anti-Indian Petition,” The Maldives Journal, December 7, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/32286

[47] “Domineering India and Compromising Maldives,” Maldives News Network, December 3, 2021, https://www.maldivesnewsnetwork.com/2021/12/03/domineering-india-and-compromising-maldives/

[48] “Ambassador: China Will not get dragged into ‘local party game’,” Sun Maldives, September 07, 2020, https://en.sun.mv/62826

[49]  “MDP Launches counter-campaign to India Out,” The Maldives Journal, May 26, 2022, https://themaldivesjournal.com/37810

[50] Naizak Mohamed, “MP Aslam: Nothing risky in the agreements, only ‘India Out’ campaign is risky,” Sun, December 04, 2021  https://en.sun.mv/70837

[51]  “75 Indian military personnel stationed in Maldives to Operate aircraft.”

[52]  Mohamed, “Govt. appeals ICO order to disclosure UTF agreement in High Court.”

[53] Naizak Mohamed, “Parliament declares that India- Maldives agreements won’t threaten independence,” Sun Maldives, November 30, 2021, https://en.sun.mv/70734

[54] See: “Adhaalath criticises India Out Campaign,” Frontpage Maldives,  December 25, 2021, https://www.frontpage.mv/news/detail/494;  Rezaul Laskar, “More Parties in Maldives Oppose ‘India Out’ campaign led by Abdulla Yameen,”Hindustan Times, December 27, 2021, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/more-parties-in-maldives-oppose-india-out-campaign-led-by-abdulla-yameen-101640613469124.html

[55]  Nishdha Jinan “Qasim Claims Unaware of Indian Military Presence in Maldives,” The Maldives Journal, September 15, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/29414

[56]  Sarah Mohamed, “JP announces candidacy 2023 Presidential Election,” Times of Addu, June 9, 2022, https://timesofaddu.com/2022/06/09/jp-announces-candidacy-2023-presidential-election/

[57]  Ibrahim Adam, “MNP Disapproves of India Out, Describes it as a crime,” The Maldives Journal, December 21, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/32685

[58]  See: Nafaahaath Ibrahim “MNP against bill to stop ‘India Out’ campaign,” Sun Maldives, February 10, 2022, https://en.sun.mv/72538; Moses Rashid, “Indian troops are wrong, but Yameen is for his own benefit: Nazim” (translated), Mihaaru, May 23, 2022, https://mihaaru.com/news/108531;   “Ex Minister: I wasn’t involved in any discussions on UTF agreement,” Sun Maldives, December 22, 2021, https://en.sun.mv/71276

[59]  Pal, “China’s Influence in South Asia: Vulnerabilities and Resilience in Four Countries.”

[60] “MP Siyam to contest the 2023 Presidential Election,” Avas Maldives, June 19, 2022, https://avas.mv/en/119263

[61] Twitter Search: #Indiaout in 2017,


[62] Twitter Search: #Indiaout in 2018, https://twitter.com/search?q=(%23Indiaout)%20lang%3Aen%20until%3A2018-12-31%20since%3A2018-01-01&src=typed_query

[63] Refer: Twitter Search: #Indiaout in 2018 from @arcasifh,

https://twitter.com/search?q=(%23indiaout)%20(from%3Aarcasifh)%20until%3A2018-12-31%20since%3A2018-01-01&src=typed_query; Twitter Search:  #Indiaout from January 2019 to June 2019,

https://twitter.com/search?q=(%23indiaout)%20until%3A2019-06-30%20since%3A2019-01-01&src=typed_query ; Twitter Search: #Indiaout in 2019 from @arcasifh


[64] Twitter Search: #Indiaout from July 2019 to July 2019


[65]  Ahmed Azaan (@axanner), “The gov is drafting a migration act. Why? To fast track citizenship for the thousands of Indians who will invade our shores from the Kochin ferry? #Indiaout #AdhugeVoara,” Tweet, July 12, 2019, https://twitter.com/axanner/status/1149414910180245504

[66] Twitter Search: #Indiaout from August 2019 to May 2020


[67] See: Twitter Advanced Search #Indiaout from July 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020, https://twitter.com/search?q=(%23indiaout)%20until%3A2020-07-31%20since%3A2020-07-01&src=typed_query ;Twitter Search #Indiaout from August 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020


[68] Twitter Advanced Search #Indiaout from September 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020


[69] See: Twitter Advanced Search #Indiaout from October 1, 2020 to October 30, 2020,

https://twitter.com/search?q=(%23indiaout)%20until%3A2020-10-30%20since%3A2020-10-01&src=typed_query&f=top - ; Twitter Advanced Search #Indiaout from November 1, 2020 to November 30, 2020,

https://twitter.com/search?q=(%23indiaout)%20until%3A2020-11-30%20since%3A2020-11-01&src=typed_query&f=top ; Twitter Advanced Search #Indiaout from June 01, 2020 to December 31, 2020,


[70]  Hashtagify (trial version), Search #Indiaout, Hashtagify, https://hashtagify.me/hashtag/indiaout

[71]  Hashtagify (trial version), Track #Indiaout Dashboard, Hashtagify, June 17, 2022-June 24, 2022


[72] Hashtagify (trial version), Search #Indiaout,

[73] See: Maldives Business Registry, “Estone Holdings,” Maldives Business Registry,

https://business.egov.mv/BusinessRegistry/ViewDetails/167802?key=-301929574 ;

[74] Maldives Business registry “Dhiyares Media,” Maldives Business Registry, https://business.egov.mv/BusinessRegistry/ViewDetails/168931?key=1263122594

[75] Search: LinkedIn – Ahmed Azaan, https://www.linkedin.com/in/ahmed-azaan-80bab7153/?originalSubdomain=az

[76] An interview with Yameen’s former close associate

[77] An interview with Yameen’s former close associate

[78]  Maldives Business registry “Maldives News Network PVT LTD,” Maldives Business Registry, https://business.egov.mv/BusinessRegistry/ViewDetails/175153?key=-1125342165

[79]  See: Maldives Business registry “Maldives News Network PVT LTD.”; Twitter Advanced Search #Indiaout from @MNNEnglish, January 01, 2020 to June 30, 2022,


[80]  The President’s Office, The Government of Republic of Maldives, April 29, 2015, https://presidencymaldives.gov.mv/Press/Article/15506

[81] “PPM appoints new Secretary General,” The Edition, February 27, 2019, https://edition.mv/news/9396

[82] See: “Agreement Signed to Operate Indian Military Aircraft is Classified: Ministry of Defence,” Maldives Journal, December 14, 2020, https://themaldivesjournal.com/20006;  Hamdhan Shakeel, “Independence and India Out,” Maldives News Network, July 26, 2021, https://www.maldivesnewsnetwork.com/2021/07/26/independence-and-india-out/

[83]  See: “How India Occupied Sikkim,” The Maldives Journal, December 24, 2020, https://themaldivesjournal.com/20052 ;  “India Behind November 3rd attack?,” Maldives Journal, January 12, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/20560; Hamdhan Shakeel, “The Cost of a Cactus,” Maldives News Network, July 26, 2021, https://www.maldivesnewsnetwork.com/2021/07/26/1988-the-cost-of-a-cactus/;  “Leaked Documents Show India refused to Withdraw military Personnel and Helicopters Even after their Visas Expired,” June 20, 2021, https://www.maldivesnewsnetwork.com/2021/06/20/leaked-documents-show-indias-refused-to-withdraw-military-personnel-and-helicopters-even-after-their-visas-expired/;

Ibrahim Adam, “Helicopter under Indian Command, Soldiers Immune from the Laws: Classified Documents,” Maldives Journal, June 07, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/25547

[84] Ibrahim Adam, “India Wanted Exclusive Rights to UTF Dockyard, Yameen Govt Did Not Agree: Ambassador Ahmed,” The Maldives Journal, February 24, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/22090

[85] Ibrahim Adam, “Most Journalists are on India’s Payroll: Yameen,” The Maldives Journal, December 5, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/32156; “President Abdulla Yameen embarks on a nationwide tour to strengthen India Out Campaign,” Maldives News Network, December 16, 2021, https://www.maldivesnewsnetwork.com/2021/12/16/president-abdulla-yameen-embarks-on-a-nationwide-tour-to-strengthen-india-out-campaign/ ; Ibrahim Adam, “Govt Has no Legal Right to Stop India Out Movement: Opposition,” The Maldives Journal, December 22, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/32749;  Hamdhan Shakeel, “Mayor Muizzu reveals that MPS Officers Informed him that Youth rally May Only Proceed if They Abandon India Out Shirts,” Maldives News Network, December 17, 2021, https://www.maldivesnewsnetwork.com/2021/12/17/mayor-dr-muizzu-reveals-that-mps-officers-informed-him-that-youth-rally-may-only-proceed-if-they-abandon-india-out-shirts/

[86]  Ibrahim Adam, “Indian Soldiers Head to Kadhdhoo with 800  Kgs of un-screened luggage,” The Maldives Journal,  February 21, 2022, https://themaldivesjournal.com/34785

[87]  “An Indian appointed for a senior Position at MACL,” The Maldives Journal, December 15, 2020, https://themaldivesjournal.com/20010;

[88]  “Elderly Maldivian Man Attacked by an Indian at Mosque,” The Maldives Journal, January 15, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/20676

[89]  See: Ibrahim Adam, “Rohith Rathish: A Dirty Man For A Dirty Job,” The Maldives Journal, June 16, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/25837 ; “India to Recall High Commissioner Sudhir due to Allegations of Corruption,” The Maldives Journal, September 24, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/29774

[90]  Seema Sengupta “Hijab row exposes India’s veiled Islamophobia,” Maldives News Network, February 13, 2022, https://www.maldivesnewsnetwork.com/2022/02/13/hijab-row-exposes-indias-veiled-islamophobia/

[91]  PSM News, Search: India Out, PSM News, https://psmnews.mv/en/search?q=india+out&date=

[92]   Raajje Maldives, Search: India Out, Raajje Maldives, https://raajje.mv/search?q=India+out&lang=english

[93]  Sun Maldives, Search: India Out, Sun Maldives, https://en.sun.mv/search?q=India%20Out&categories=local

[94]  Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy, “Balances and Benefits in Southern South Asia: The Maldives and Sri Lanka in 2021,” Observer Research Foundation, December 28, 2021,  https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/balances-and-benefits-in-the-southern-south-asia/

[95] See: “Anti-India Campaign in the Maldives, Possibly Sponsored by China,” The Print, March 11, 2022, https://theprint.in/world/anti-india-campaign-in-the-maldives-possibly-sponsored-by-china-report/868984/;  “Ambassador: China Will not get dragged into ‘local party game’.”

[96] Nirupama Subramaniam, “US Signs defence pact with Maldives,” Indian Express, September 13, 2020, https://indianexpress.com/article/world/us-signs-defence-pact-with-maldives-6594295/

[97]  Long Xingchun, “China, India Should Cooperate in Maldives,” Global Times, September 25, 2018, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/201809/1120873.shtml

[98] See: Leng Shumei, “India’s Wooing of Maldives’ leader ‘risks China ties’,” Global Times, November 21, 2018 https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/201811/1127898.shtml;  Hu Weijia, “Maldives can make wise choice when it comes to bilateral trade pact with China,” Global Times,  November 21, 2018, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/201811/1128430.shtml ; Liu Zongyi, “Maldives has to walk China-India tightrope,” Global Times, November 25, 2018, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/201811/1128864.shtml

[99] Xiao Xin, “Maldives Would be wise to Shun meaningless ‘gift’ from New Delhi,” Global Times, November 29, 2018, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/201811/1129591.shtml

[100]  See: Zhang Jiadong, “India’s Neighbourhood first policy aims at centripetal ties,” Global Times, October 03, 2019, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/201910/1165998.shtml;  “India’s assistance to the Maldives shouldn’t be tainted by geopolitics,” Global Times, September 23, 2020, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202009/1201762.shtml

[101]  Liu Zongyi, “India eyes bigger Influence in Indian Ocean through Colombo Security Conclave,” Global Times, August 19, 2021, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202108/1231954.shtml

[102] See: Lan Jianxue, “New Delhi Can’t woo nearby South Asia, Oceans aprt Washington Won’t either,” Global Times, October 22, 2020, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202010/1204365.shtml;  Long Xingchun, “US-Maldives defense bond may irk India,” Global Times, January 07, 2021, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202101/1212195.shtml

[103] See, for instance: Li Xiaokun, “Land Sale Isn’t for Military Purpose, Says Maldives,” China Daily, July 25, 2015, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2015-07/25/content_21404296.htm; Xie Fang, “Maldives Celebrates 51st Independence Day,” China Daily, July 26, 2016, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2016-07/26/content_26218579.htm;  Mohamed Shainee, “The Maldives Pursues Closer Cooperation,” China Daily, January, 06, 2018,  http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201801/06/WS5a502ab0a31008cf16da56f6.html

[104] See: Xinhua, “China-Maldives Friendship Bridge brings convenience for locals,” China Daily, September 04, 2019, https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201909/04/WS5d6e0b92a310cf3e3556972e.html ; Xinhua, “China, Maldives pledge cooperation on Belt & Road, Post-Pandemic recovery,” China Daily, January 09, 2022, https://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202201/09/WS61da8013a310cdd39bc7ff1b.html

[105]  “Lying about China puts US to shame: China Daily editorial,” China Daily, October 27, 2020, https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202010/27/WS5f980f40a31024ad0ba8159e.html

[106] See: ”Maldives, U.S. aim to deepen cooperation,” Xinhua, October 29, 2020, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/asiapacific/2020-10/29/c_139474090.htm;

“Maldives ex-president acquitted on money laundering charges,” Xinhua, November 30, 2021, https://english.news.cn/20211015/C99FC9850D500001FF74629D1DFE7510/c.html; “Feature: “New connections” – China bridges gap in Maldives’ hottest growth spot,” Xinhua, April 12, 2022, https://english.news.cn/20220412/969b5fc606fd4d8cb3f353d3905084a2/c.html ; “Maldives inaugurates Chinese -built apron at Velena Int’l Airport,” Xinhua, November 07, 2021, http://www.news.cn/english/asiapacific/2021-11/07/c_1310295516.htm ;  Xinhua, “Maldives aims to strengthen relations with China: foreign minister,” People’s Daily, July 27, 2020, http://en.people.cn/n3/2020/0727/c90000-9714889.html; Xinhua, “Xi says China ready to push forward ties with Maldives,” People’s Daily, July 17, 2021, http://en.people.cn/n3/2021/0717/c90000-9873300.html

[107]  Amish Raj Mulmi, “The Yam Between Three Boulders,” Himal Magazine, April 07, 2022, https://www.himalmag.com/himal-briefs-yam-between-three-boulders-nepal-2022/

[108] See:  “GT Investigates: China-Nepal, China-Bhutan border dispute rumours ‘stoked by India Forces’”,

Global Times, November 24, 2020, https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1207952.shtml

[109] An interview with Yameen’s former close associate

[110]  Interview with a former PPM leader

[111] Maldives News Network, search: China, Maldives News Network, https://www.maldivesnewsnetwork.com/?s=china

[112] “More Intl voices opposing US politicising virus origin probes,” Global Times, July 26, 2021, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202107/1229689.shtml

[113]  David Shullman (ed), “Chinese malign Influence and the Corrosion of Democracy: An Assesment of Chinese Interference in Thirteen Key Countries,” IRI Research Report, June 2019, International Republican Institute, https://www.iri.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/chinese_malign_influence_report.pdf

[114] DP Satish, “A Sea Change: Chinese Hand Behind Sri Lanka Breaking off ECT Pact at Colombo Port with India and Japan?,” News 18, February 04, 2021, https://www.news18.com/news/world/a-sea-change-chinese-hand-behind-sri-lanka-breaking-off-ect-pact-at-colombo-port-with-india-and-japan-3389426.html

[115]  Ibrahim Adam, “India Advised Solih Govt to Link India Out Movement with Drug Trafficking,” The Maldives Journal, December 12, 2021, https://themaldivesjournal.com/32433

[116]  South Asia Monitor, “Maldives: Speaker Nasheed calls “India Out” protestors extremist,” South Asian Monitor, October 08, 2020, https://www.southasiamonitor.org/region/maldives-speaker-nasheed-calls-india-out-protesters-extremist

[117]  See: Human Rights Watch, “An All-Out Assault on Democracy” Crushing Dissent in the Maldives, Human Rights Watch, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/08/16/all-out-assault-democracy/crushing-dissent-maldives ;  Human Rights Watch, “I could Have Been Next” Stymied Reforms in the Maldives,  Human Rights Watch, 2022, https://www.hrw.org/report/2022/04/14/i-could-have-been-next/stymied-reforms-maldives;

Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy, “Trouble in Paradise: Endorsed Extremism and Sustained Extremist Ecosystem in the Maldives,” Observer Research Foundation, July 01, 2022, https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/sustained-extremist-ecosystems-in-the-maldives/

[118] Gowdara Shivamurthy, “Trouble in Paradise: Endorsed Extremism and Sustained Extremist Ecosystem in the Maldives”

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Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy

Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy

Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy is an Associate Fellow with ORFs Strategic Studies Programme. He focuses on broader strategic and security related-developments throughout the South Asian region ...

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Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy

Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy